Developing A “Carry-On Only” Spirituality
I used to do a fair bit of travelling and along the way I picked up some tips on how to make a trip less stressful. One of them was to only take carry-on baggage. By doing this I saved countless hours not having to stand in line to check and drop off my bags and then again to pick them up again at the carousel. It also made it possible to use public transportation to and from the airport thus saving me a lot of money. But probably the biggest benefit I learned, which wasn’t immediately apparent, is that when you are able to live with just a little you discover how little you really need.
In the Gospel today Jesus sends out 72 appointees from among the disciples to go preach the Good News. The first thing that Jesus tells them as they are about to leave is how dangerous it is going to be, they are being sent like lambs into the midst of wolves. This was not going to be any luxury resort vacation.
Given the perilous nature of the mission the next thing that Jesus asks them might have made them stop and think. He says, “Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals and greet no one on the road.” That’s right, no extra food, no safety equipment, no sunscreen and certainly no credit card. This was going to be a lightweight, unencumbered trip. Every good sailor knows that too much ballast will sink the boat and every missionary sooner or later learns that too much stuff gets in the way of the mission. It is not pastorally productive to be too self-reliant because it gets in the way of one’s faith in God.
We should see in Jesus’ minimalist approach not an invitation to die of starvation or by exposure to the elements. In fact it is just the opposite. It is an invitation to be open to what God wants to provide for us through the circumstances we encounter and in the people that we meet. With trust we will find that God’s bounty is greater than what we could think of supplying for ourselves.
Practically speaking not all of us have the ability to be carry-on only types. For some, life will always have to make space for the mini-van pulling a U-Haul trailer with the kid’s bicycles piled on top. But from an interior point of view, the missionary spirit is one that anyone can begin to foster, if we were to know what it looks like.
Today’s memorial commemorates two of St. Paul’s helpers in the mission field, Timothy and Titus. St. Paul was an important mentor to these young men and in his letter to his spiritual son Timothy we can discern the most important things that Paul would think a good missionary should always have handy. The list I came up with looks something like this:
Gratitude, A heart for prayer, Empathy, Joy, Courage, Love, Self-discipline, Pride (not for self but for the Gospel), Trust and the ability to accept suffering.
This is quite the packing list, but it doesn’t weigh a thing and it doesn’t take up any space in the overhead compartment.
See Also: Living the Liturgical Year on the Memorial of Sts. Timothy & Titus